Friday, February 28, 2014

Stick or twist?

It's that time of year. I'm distracted.

Earlier today I purchased my copy of RP Weekender's Cheltenham The Ultimate Guide (just £2.99 at most good newsagents, as they used to say); I've been reading that rather than looking closely at tomorrow's form.

In addition, around this time of year you tend to come across previous losing selections that are trying their luck once again and you're faced with something of a dilemma  - should I stick or should I twist?

Two such selections from tomorrow's entries are Godsmejudge (3.30 Doncaster, previously pulled up in Sandown's London National) and Jumps Road (3.15 Newbury, previously recorded as 'never better than mid division' in the Betfair Hurdle at the same track).

Godsmejudge is one of twelve declared for the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster. The official ground is good which makes me wary of treating recent form too literally.

At the time of writing Monbeg Dude and Court By Surprise are vying for favouritism. The former is trained by Michael Scudamore, Tom's brother and son of Peter. I mention this casually in passing only because every time I see a comment from a Scudamore in the press, the subject of family seems to come up. Michael cunningly works in a mention in today's Times while Tom regularly repeated the trick when he wrote a column for the same paper a couple of years back.

I had begun to wonder whether family members had on-going wagers with each other on the matter... Enough. Monbeg Dude, like Godsmejudge, is looking to this as a warm-up for the Grand National in April.

Since 2004 there has only been one winner younger than nine years old (Cloudy Lane 2008) and only two with an official rating higher than 131 - Grey Abbey in 2004 together with the aforementioned Cloudy Lane. In the same timeframe just one favourite has obliged - Always Right in 2011.

This evening layers don't appear to agree about Donald McCain's Real Milan; bet365 offer 13/2 while William Hill go 10/1. This one looks less exposed than some in the field while the yard has been in decent form of late; the trainer expects his charge to improve for the better ground.

The doubt in my mind is I'm not certain the gelding really stays this extended three and a quarter miles. At 10/1 Real Milan is the each-way suggestion.

I haven't totally given up on Jumps Road (Newbury) but for a horse that started 33/1, 28/1 and 100/1 on his last three runs, the 6/1 on offer with Ladbrokes and Stan James this evening just doesn't look quite big enough...

Friday, February 21, 2014

Eider Chase 2014

Many will concentrate on Kempton tomorrow but rather than put up half a dozen short-priced losers on that card, I've chosen to exercise a modicum of self-discipline and restricted myself to putting up one bigger-priced loser at Newcastle.

Gosforth Park's feature is the four mile one furlong Eider Chase at 2.55; most layers will pay a quarter the odds four places provided the sixteen declared overnight make it to the start.

I'm interested in Wyck Hill, quoted at 16/1 with Bet Victor earlier this afternoon but now only a 12/1 chance. This one has been bang out of form this term but as a result he's dropped to a mark of 133. Last year he won a listed handicap chase at Ascot off 129 and trainer David Bridgwater is on record saying: 'I thought he was capable of winning off a good bit higher mark than this...'

The last five winners of this have all carried 11-0 or more; tomorrow connections try their charge in a tongue-tie for the first time.

I know I'm taking a chance on the return to form but at the price Wyck Hill appeals as an each-way play.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Haydock's Grand National Trial

Four weeks today we'll know the winner of the 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup but the Grand National is the focus at Haydock tomorrow where the Betfred Grand National Trial (2.55) is the highlight on the card.

Welsh National form is represented by Hawkes Point (second), Merry King (fourth) with Red Rocco and Well Refreshed both pulled up while Emperor's Choice won the West Wales National at Ffos Las a fortnigtht ago. You know, I can still see Well Refreshed winning this event last year despite jumping straight through the final flight as though it wasn't there...

16/1 chance Wychwoods Brook upset several more fancied runners when taking the Peter Marsh here four weeks ago (Merry King third); that was a decent show from Evan Williams' novice who was formerly with Graeme McPherson. There may be more to come but Our Father is one that hasn't really lived up to lofty expectations.

My search for a runner at an each-way price led me to consider, amongst others, Loch Ba and Soll. The former ran creditably in Warwick's Classic Chase five weeks ago; he has a tendency to throw in the odd howler once in race but the trip and ground should pose no problems - at 9/1 his price is about right. Soll finished seventh in the Aintree showpiece last year and connections have the same target this year. The horse has form on heavy but the handler has indicated his charge doesn't appreciate it which is why, I assume, he's priced at 20/1.

I'll take an each-way interest in Loch Ba, trained by Mick Channon, having formerly been with Hen Knight.           

Friday, February 07, 2014

Newbury's Super Saturday 2014

Tomorrow's meetings at Newbury and Warwick are both subject to early morning inspections.

In the Game Spirit at Newbury (3.00) Dodging Bullets looks the likely favourite but I'm with Tom George's Module. On official ratings this one has two pounds in hand over Paul Nicholls' charge and receives an additional three pounds under the conditions of the race. Last time out Module never really troubled the principals in Huntingdon's Peterborough Chase but this drop back to two miles should suit.

Al Ferof leads the market for the Denman Chase (2.25) and favourites have a reasonable record with four wins from past nine renewals. I'm not tempted by Katenko who may well improve on his fourth in Haydock's Peter Marsh but Venetia Williams' charge has taken time to come to hand this year while Harry Topper's jumping has been a concern in the past and the gelding has been done no favours at the weights. I won't play.

The last horse older than six to win the Betfair Hurdle (3.35) was Geos in 2004. Of those set to carry less than 11 stones, the two Pipe runners catch the eye. Professor Caroline Tisdall shelled out 280,000 euros of her own money to buy Dell'Arca who won the Greatwood at Cheltenham before coming to grief in a nasty-looking incident at Ascot next time out. Provided that mishap hasn't affected the confidence Dell'Arca should run a nice race while Pipe's other entry, Swing Bowler, finished third in this race last year behind My Tent Or Yours and Cotton Mill. The mare hasn't seen a track for eleven months but as a consequence she contests this year's renewal off a mark just two pounds higher. Connections have indicated she wouldn't want the ground too soft and another tilt at the mares' hurdle at next month's Cheltenham Festival is the target. Jumps Road has winning form on heavy ground and has run into third spot at big prices behind Melodic Rendezvous and The New One in recent weeks; Colin Tizzard's inmate is worth a small each-way interest at 33/1 with Skybet who are paying a quarter the odds five places.